Brown Owl, who lives up the street, is a very good friend. She is also has the distinction of being The Best Ex-Roommate Ever. (Before—for almost three whole years, in fact—this was the distinction of Best Roommate Ever; but, as time wore on, we both began to feel an impending dread, a dread that comes from the foreshadowing you begin to feel as you worry that you might end up having a fight sometime in the future… so in the interest of keeping our pristine record intact, not to mention our mutual honourary titles, I moved out. It was for the best.)

Brown Owl just turned 40. She’s not too thrilled about this. In fact, six months well in advance of her birthday she told her collected friends that should we actually do anything for her in honour of her seminal year that our relationship would be “over”. So I gave her a meek, verbal “happy birthday” three days after the fact which she said was “perfect”.

She’s a Virgo, after all. They mean what they say.

I suspect her boyfriend, who’s a bit of a brat at the best of times, wanted to do something a little more grand, but she was having none of it. She restricted him to buying her a book. He was going to get her Alice Munro’s Too Much Happiness, but she bought it for herself, so instead he picked her up Dan Brown’s new erudite thriller. (I say erudite, but I don’t mean it.)

I paused on the phone. “Oh?” I asked.

“It’s not bad…” she answered.


“No. It’s not terrible. I mean, it’s interesting.”

“Ah,” I said. “How’s the prose?”

“Oh, GOD!” she wailed. “He takes so fucking long!”

“I’m bringing you a book.”

So I saddled up trusty Mr. Bicycle (better known as The Silver Bullet), and rode up to deliver Cooking With Fernet Branca. It was a gift from my very dear Silver C while I was housebound with pneumonia last January and it’s guaranteed to alleviate all manner of heavy ailments: melancholy, age induced dilemma, teetotalism, and boredom just to name a few. I can’t go into it without ruining the whole thing, but suffice to say that at one point the anti-hero’s foil receives a visit from a stealth helicopter, which brings her snacks. It’s grand.

When I put it in her hands, she opened a page at random and read, “‘He left the house.’ Oh. See? Simple. You don’t need to use sixteen words to say simple things.”

“He’s very popular, our Dan Brown,” I said.


“I’ve always thought of him as Umberto Eco lite.”


~ by A Mundi on October 2, 2009.

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